The Resurrection: History or Myth?

 

Did Jesus exist?
Was Jesus crucified?
Is Jesus alive?

              3 crosses
              Did this really happen?

Jesus Christ is the very centre of the Christian faith. According to millions of Christians around the world He is the most important figure in history and his death and resurrection is the most life altering event in history. But is the history reliable? Did these events really occur? Is the story the Bible tells trustworthy? Is it just mass hysteria?
 

If the historicity of the resurrection can be proven true beyond reasonable doubt then the case for the whole of Christianity and the whole story of the Bible demands a lot more attention. Whether you have a faith or are an atheist; if Jesus' resurrection is provable beyond reasonable doubt then it requires an answer to the question 'who was or is Jesus Christ? '.


 

Putting the Bible aside

 
There may be some who would completely discount the bible, claiming that is fiction in its entirety. As a Christian I believe the Bible is accurate and true. However in the interest of impartiality we can create a strong case for the life and death of Jesus by putting the Word of God aside and seeing what some of the contemporaries of the Bible claim about Jesus.
 
Tacitus
Tacitus is a Roman historian and governor who served Rome in Asia and Britain. In around 114AD Tacitus wrote a history of the Roman Empire in the first century. Tacitus writes about the Great Fire of Rome of 64AD and how the emperor Nero responded to the fire.
 

'Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.'
Tacitus, Annals 15.44

 
This quote from Tacitus is regarded by all scholars to be authentic and Tacitus is regarded as a trustworthy source on what we know of this period of Roman history. Whilst this does not prove the resurrection it does establish some facts:

 
  • Around 64 AD there are a group called Christians in Rome
  • The Christians followed a man called Christus (Christus is the Latin form of the Greek word Χριστ?ς, Christós, Christ)
  • The man Christus 'suffered the extreme penalty' the extreme penalty is how Roman writers describe crucifixion or execution by animals as it was seen as too horrible to mention.
  • This crucifixion took place in the reign of emperor Tiberius (Tiberius was emperor in 14 AD-37 AD)
  • The crucifixion took place at the hands of a Roman procurator (local governor) called Pontius Pilate (Pilate was a procurator of the province in 27AD-37 AD)
  • After the crucifixion a 'most mischievous superstition' started in Judea (Israel) and then spread to Rome. 


From Tacitus alone we can see that by 64AD, only 31 years after the supposed crucifixion of Jesus, the facts surrounding Christianity have been sought out and committed to writing. Keep in mind that Tacitus is vehemently against Christianity and if he had access to proof disqualifying the Christian claims he would have provided it. Furthermore the facts established above are trustworthy as they come from an opposing position against Christianity. Tacitus testimony proves beyond reasonable doubt that a man called Christ was crucified in around 27-37AD and by 64AD his followers had spread from Judea with a message that the Romans believed was superstitious and persecuted them for it.
 
Pliny the younger
 
Writing around the same time as Tacitus (112AD) Pliny the Younger; who was a Roman governor in Bythinia (modern day Turkey); writes to his friend emperor Trajan. Pliny does not know how to handle the growing Christian church and asks the emperor for advice.
 

'They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.'
Pliny the younger, Epistles X.96

 

We also have a copy of the emperor’s reply:

 
'You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it--that is, by worshiping our gods--even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.'
Trajan to Pliny the younger

 
Pliny the younger was a very active writer and gives us many insights into events of Roman history at this time; he is a trusted and reliable source on the eruption of Vesuvius and the reign of Emperor Trajan. From his discourse with Trajan we can learn several things:
 

  • In 112 AD Christians were in Turkey (Bythinia). In the province of Bythinia is the region of Galatia and the town of Ephesus that Paul wrote to.
  • The Christians met on a fixed day of the week
  • They sang hymns to 'Christ as to a God'
  • They bound themselves not to do any wicked deeds
  • The shared ordinary food and drink in communion
  • Being Christian was a punishable offence however they are 'not to be sought out'
  • A Christian may be excused if he worships the Roman gods, proving he has renounced Christianity. Therefore Christianity is monotheistic (belief in one God)
 

From Pliny we can see that Christ is worshipped by monotheists as God in around 110AD, we can also see the Roman authority beginning to see Christianity as a threat. Both Tacitus and Pliny both testify to the truthfulness of the New Testament and Paul's letters that Christianity spread from Judea along the Mediterranean with major churches in Rome and Bythinia.
 
Thallus
A 2nd century writer Julius Africanus gives a brief account from first century historian Thallus writing in 52AD. Despite its indirect transmission Africanus' testimony is seen as authentic.
 

'On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness as Thallus in the third book of his History, calls it, appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth - manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending of rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord allowed them to suffer’.
Sextus Julius Africanus, Chronographiai (History of the World) fragment XVIII, Quoting Thallus

 
Compare the quotation above to the bible
 

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Mathew 27:45-46

 
Although we do not have Thallus' original writing from this secondary evidence we can note some facts:
 

  • Julius Africanus demonstrates that Roman astrological records (from the writer Phlegon) record that there was darkness around the date of Jesus’ death at the correct time of day corresponding to the biblical account.
  • Those records show that there was darkness and earthquakes on the day before Passover
  • Astrologically It could not have simply been an eclipse
  • If there had been no darkness at all Thallus would have simply denied the existence of the darkness he had been alive at the time, instead Thallus claims erroneously that it was eclipse. 


Edict of Caesar in Nazareth
 
In 1878 a marble inscription came to light in Nazareth. Unfortunately due to the intense zeal for discoveries of this nature in Israel, the time, date and location of the discovery is unknown. However through palaeography (the study of handwriting and style) and the particular form of Greek used it has been deemed authentic by scholars. The following inscription is dated to 41-50 AD which would make it within 20 year of Jesus' death.

 
Direct translationEDICT OF CEASER

EDICT OF CAESAR
 
It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honour those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.

 
In short Caesar places the death penalty on grave robbing. Unlike Nazareth today 1st century Nazareth was very small and unimportant town approximately 4 acres in size and more a village than a town and yet despite its unimportance it receives an edict of Caesar. This seems to be in direct reaction to the start of the new Christian faith and the Resurrection. In contrast Matthew 28:11-15 reads:
 

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep'. And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Matthew 28:11-15

 
The Bible claims that when the news of the resurrection reached the elders they started the rumour that the body was simply stolen. Most importantly in verse 14 they reported that the body had been stolen by the Roman governor. In 20 years time when Christianity had been established and Rome saw it as a threat they responded to the rumour of body snatching with this Edict of Caesar inscription. The Nazareth inscription is of course secondary evidence and makes no direct mention of Jesus or his resurrection. However it is compelling that this inscription would appear in Jesus' unimportant home town of Nazareth matching perfectly with the gospel accounts.
 

Josephus
Josephus was a Roman/Jewish historian who wrote a complete history of the Jewish people specifically concentrating on the First Century. He wrote in around 93AD. He specifically mentions John the Baptist once and Jesus twice as follows.
 

'Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.'

Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18 Chapter 5:2, the account of John the Baptists ministry and death.

 

'Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others.

Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20 Chapter 9:1, the trial of James Jesus' brother.

 

'Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.'
Antiquities of the Jews book 18 chapter 3:3 includes Josephus description of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection; this description is known as the Testimonium Flavianum.

 
The first two of these quotes are beyond reasonable doubt the authentic writings of Josephus, unfortunately the same could not be said for the last and most impressive quote, scholars have concluded that whilst some of the account is Josephus's writing much of it is not. The original Testimonium did indeed discuss the figure of Jesus. However it is believed that later writers altered Josephus words to make the evidence stronger. They have of course done damage to the authenticity of this evidence. What follows is a potential recreation of what Josephus' original words could have been. However, unless more manuscripts are discovered there is no way of discerning the original text. That being said the entierity of the passage is quoted by other writers as early as 324AD meaning if it was altered it was done so very early on.

 
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

 
Nevertheless scholars are in agreement that Josephus in his history of first century did indeed include Jesus as a notable figure.
 

  • to conclude the non-Christian sources demonstrate:
  • A man called Jesus existed in the first century
  • He had the title of Christ
  • He had followers called Christians
  • Jesus Christ was crucified during Passover
  • During Passover there was a darkness that covered the land
  • Christianity continued to grow after the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • These Christians were monotheistic but yet still worshipped Jesus as God

 


Picking up the Bible - Eyewitness testimony

In order to pick up the Bible with impartiality, we must not treat the Bible as a whole; but rather as separate books and if a book cannot firmly be established in history we must discard it in the interest of remaining impartial. I am not suggesting we remove books from the bible but rather we can put them aside and use only books of the bible that are able to be validated. We can however use inderpendant sources to validate the bible.
 
A Christian leader called Quadratus of Athens boldly wrote to the anti-Christian emperor Hadrian in around 124AD giving a detailed defence of the Christian church in it he writes:
 

"The words of our Saviour were always present, for they were true: those who were healed, those who rose from the dead, those who were not only seen in the act of being healed or raised, but were also always present, not merely when the Saviour was living on earth, but also for a considerable time after his departure, so that some of them survived even to our own times."
Quadratus of Athens recorded by Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiastica, Book IV, chapter 3

 
This is a bold account stating several facts and includes evidence that was available to him but not to us.
 

  • There are many eyewitness some who had survived into their own lifetime (probably referring to around 90AD)
  • Eyewitnesses who had seen healing and who had been healed
  • Those who had seen people rise from the dead and those who had been risen
  • Those who had seen Jesus physically do these things
  • Those who had seen things after Jesus had left 


We also have fragments of the writing of a man called Papias who wrote 95AD-125AD. Fortunately for us Papias seemed to be obsessed with learning all that he could from first hand sources about Jesus and his teaching. He introduced his writing as follows:
 

I shall not hesitate also to put into ordered form for you, along with the interpretations, everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down carefully, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders arrived, I made enquiries about the words of the elders—what Andrew or Peter had said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and John the Elder, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from the books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice.
Papias of Hierapolis, Preface of 'Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, recorded by Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica book III chapter 39

 
Clearly in the first century eyewitnesses of Jesus' miracles were plentiful. Papias seemed to have spent years compiling his writing much of which is sadly lost. This time of research would have been around 90AD during which time he seemed to have interaction with John the Elder the author of the gospel of John importantly Papias records the following.
 

The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai, but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia of the Lord. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong when he wrote down some individual items just as he related them from memory. For he made it his one concern not to omit anything he had heard or to falsify anything.
Papias of Hierapolis, 'Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, recorded by Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica book III chapter 39

 
John said that Mark was Peter's interpreter who wrote down Peter's memories of Jesus' words and actions in an ordered form. It is important to note that the word 'interpreter' is 'amanuensis' meaning someone who writes dictation. When Papias writes 'Peter used to give his teaching in the form of 'Chreiai' this is a literary genre akin to a short story or anecdote. It is clear that Peter must have been a source for the gospel as what he saw, how he behaved and how he felt features heavily in Mark. Mark is the first gospel to be written and the earliest known fragment of Mark is dated to around 80AD however this is a very recent discovery and still requires authentication.
The Gospel of Mark was used by the other gospel writers, how else could the story of the cockerel and Peter's denial have been told? Peter must have personally told the account before his death.
 
Papias testifies the following facts regarding the Gospel of mark
 

  • Mark himself never met Jesus
  • Mark wrote on behalf of Peter the disciple
  • Peter had no intention of writing a gospel of his own but rather told short stories of his experiences
  • Under Peter's supervision Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark
  • Evidently the Gospel of Mark is an accurate eyewitness testimony 


With all this in mind read Mark
 
And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."

Mark 16:6-7

 
Furthermore the gospel of John, regarded as the last gospel to be penned has very early manuscript evidence dating to around 100-117AD the manuscript called the 'Rylands Library Papyrus p52' contains writing on both sides of the pages as it was a codex (an early form of book binding) one side is John 18:31-33 and the other John 18:37 and reads as follows.

side 1 john 18 31 33Side 1 John 18:31-33
Direct translation

'the Jews, "For us it is not permitted to kill anyone," so that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke signifying what kind of death he was going to die. Entered therefore again into the Praetorium Pilate and summoned Jesus and said to him, Thou art king of the Jews?"

                                
 Side 2 John 18:37-38
 Direct Translation

 ‘a King I am. For this I have been born and (for this) I have come into the world so that I would testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." Said to him Pilate, "What is truth?" and this having said, again he went out unto the Jews and said to them, "I find not one fault in him."

 
This papyrus of John contains a key section of the Passion narrative that can be found in bibles around the world, Jesus before Pontius Pilate. This provides evidence for an early date of the Gospel of John and along with Papias account of John the Elder gives the gospel of John credence as eyewitness testimony, this fragment was penned around 60-70 years after Jesus' death. This matches with the tradition that John was the last surviving disciple meaning that John wrote his original gospel as early as 50AD and as late as 100AD before its transmission and distribution of which the Rylands Library manuscript is one copy.
 
Therefore both the gospels of Mark and John are independently validated as being of the first century, in the correct time frame and containing eyewitness testimony.
 

Paul's testimony
The biblical figure of Paul is extremely intriguing, many people on a historical basis discount him because he has a separate and subjective experience of Jesus on the road to Damascus how could he provide reliable information on the real Jesus?
 
1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians are all attributed to Paul and are regarded as of genuine authorship by even the most ardent critics; this is due to his letters wide circulation around the Mediterranean very early on in church history. Paul died around 67 AD and wrote his letters from prison around 60-62 AD as validated by early church leaders (see table at end of page). The original manuscript for 1 Corinthians must therefore have been penned 27-30 years after the supposed death of Jesus. Galatians chapter 1 and 2 tells of how Paul met with James, Jesus' brother, Peter and John.
 

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas (Peter) and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, "He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."
Galatians 1:15-24  

 
He met with them to insure the message he was preaching was correct this would have happened around 40AD, he visited again in around 54AD.
 

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain... And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised... and when James and Cephas (Peter) and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:1-10

 
The first visit took place around 6 years after Jesus' death and the second 14 years after that. These two visits provide the sources for Paul's teaching. This is excellent source materiel; primary sources within two decades from original eyewitness. With this in mind read 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

 
Paul's States that he is simply passing on a message that is of first importance, the message is that Christ died, was buried and was raised again all for our sins.
 

Authentic, but trustworthy?

 
We have shown that the sources of the Gospel of Mark, Gospel of John and Paul's letters are authentic and the sources used in there writing are contemporary eyewitness accounts but are they trustworthy? The disciples could have lied or been delusional or been tricked?
 
The disciple’s lives were radically changed by what they believed about Jesus, history loses sight of many of the disciples and we have only traditions of where they went. However for a number of them we have excellent records of what they did after Jesus left.
 
Most of the disciples died for what they believed in and at no point is there any record of them recanting their message. Despite given opportunities to do so, as we have seen the thing of first importance for the disciples was that 'Christ died for our sins'. The death of the apostles is widely attested as historical fact, found in the writings of Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Origen and Dionysius of Corinth to name a few.
 
So it is clear that the eyewitnesses and disciples where sincere in their belief that Jesus died and rose again. However sincere perhaps the disciples were mistaken? Gary Habermas and Michael Licona have produced a possible list of psychological reasons for the disciple’s sincere belief. Some of the primary reasons given are hallucinations and delusions.
 
Hallucinations?
For various psychological reasons grief can cause hallucinations, those who have lost a loved one can 'see' them everywhere. Combine this with the possibility of drink or drugs, a hallucination can seem very real and have formed the basis for spiritual beliefs around the world.
 
However hallucinations are always individual experiences in one persons mind. There are instances recorded of mass hallucinations of groups of people hallucinating together however the hallucinations themselves are always differ. Jesus resurrection could not have been a hallucination because it is so widely attested that many individuals saw him after the crucifixion. The differing eyewitnesses match too well for it to be considered a mass hallucination. (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)   
 
If the disciples were suffering from a hallucination then the body of Jesus could have been exhumed as evidence and have destroyed the belief of the early church.
 
The conversion of Paul is impossible if the disciple’s grief produced hallucinations, then why does a persecutor of the Christian faith who is in prominent position change his mind and becomes the primary evangeliser of the Mediterranean? 

John records the disciples touched and worshipped Jesus as a God (John 20:24-29), ate with him (John 21:12) all after the crucifixion. This is not the record of an eyewitness who experienced a hallucination. 

Delusion?
 
It cannot be denied that people go to extraordinary lengths in false belief instigated by a strong leader, for example the Wako siege or Jonestown massacre. Surely under strong leadership, possibly Peter's, the disciples could have been deluded into thinking that Jesus was the resurrected son of God.
 
This solution is untenable for the following reasons.
 

  • Conversion of Paul, Paul had been staunchly against early Christianity and yet became a devoted Christian
  • Conversion of James, Jesus' sceptical brother (John 7:2-5) he later become leader of the church in Jerusalem
  • Johns account of the disciples eating with and touching Jesus
  • Jesus body could have been displayed by the Roman authorities
  • If the story of Jesus' resurrection had been a story conducted by some or all of the disciples then why do the gospels depict the disciples so unflatteringly and embarrassingly? Such as the Peter's denial of Christ (John 18:15-27), their lack of faith (Mark 4:35, Mark 8:4) the bad company they kept (Mark 2:16), their lack of understanding (Mark 8:33, Mark 9:30-32)
  • Quadratus' claimed that there were eyewitnesses available who saw Jesus perform miracles and people being raised from the dead 


Psychological solutions to the evidence for Jesus' resurrection simply do not hold up to scrutiny. Something incredible must have taken place as a real historical event in around 30AD, the only fully satisfactory conclusion of the evidence is the following facts.
 

  • A man called Jesus existed in the first century
  • He had the title of Christ
  • Jesus Christ was crucified during Passover
  • During that Passover there was a darkness that covered the land
  • The disciples believed sincerely Jesus to be God, and that he was resurrected
  • Christianity continued to grow after Jesus’ crucifixion
  • No psychological explanation fits all the evidence   


Therefore Jesus Christ died, was buried and then rose again.
 

How to use this information

In this article we have concentrated on the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from a historical perspective. In real-life discussion it is important to take time to answer questions slowly and carefully and I would not raise the issue of historicity but rather wait until it is challenged. Many people do not want or care about sources or dates but rather what has Jesus done in your life today. However there are those that have questions and doubt regarding the historicity of the Jesus of the bible. It is important to keep in mind that just because you can show Jesus was a true historical figure that died and rose again will not make people a Christian, pray as you discuss. There are many belief systems that happily incorporate the resurrection of Jesus into their own religion but reject the gospel that the resurrection brings, someone who only believes Jesus was raised from the dead is not saved.
 

 
 
 

 Listed below are some more sources supporting Christ
Green is a trusted source
Yellow is a dubious source
 

Author Date produced Description Status      
 
James Ossuary 
 
 
Late 1st century
(50-100AD)
 
An ossuary is a box used to house the bones of the dead, this box has an inscription that reads ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’
 
The box was discovered in the illegal antique market in 2002, it is thought by many scholars to be authentic despite controversy.
 
Celsus
 
177AD
 
A full attack on Christianity that accused Jesus of sorcery.
 
We do not have the original documents but later Christians responded fully to Celsus and is regarded as an authentic early source.
 
 
Lucian Of Samosata
 
135-180AD
 
A satirical attack on Christianity, that specifically mentions Jesus as a crucified philosopher with a ‘deluded’ following
 
Authentic source however his writings contained many inaccuracies and is regarded as a bigoted attack on a faith he did not research well.
 
 The Talmud

 
 70-200AD  Jewish teachings that include attacks on Jesus and Christianity. The Talmud is complex and it is thought to contain elements of authentic oral teaching.
 
Suetonius
 
49AD, 69AD (Written 121AD)
 
Roman historical work, ‘Lives of the 12 Caesars’ described early Christians were expelled from Rome in 49AD their leader is called Chrestus or Christ (matching Acts 18:2). He also mentions the persecution of Christians by Nero for their beliefs in 69AD (Matching Tacitus) 
 
 
Authentic source
 
Mara bar Sarapion
 
73AD-100AD
 
The letters of a Syrian philosopher he writes about how people respond violently to wise people he gives 3 examples one of which is the wise king of the Jews who was foolishly murdered but lives on through a ‘new law’
 
 
Authentic source
 
Pre-Pauline Creeds
 
Circa 30AD
 
On several occasions Paul mentions creeds that pre-exist his writings the earliest of which is perhaps Philippians 2:6
 
 
Authentic although which of Pauls sayings pre-exist him as earlier creeds is debatable
 
Early Church leaders including
 
Clement of Rome
 
92-99AD
 
Clement was taught by Peter and was a leader of the Church in Rome he is thought to be the clement mentioned in Philippians 4:3. He wrote extensively but much is lost. One surviving document contains mention of the future resurrection of Christians (1 Clem 26:1)
 
 
Authentic source though partial
 
Ignatius of Antioch
 
67-117AD
 
Ignatius was a church leader in Antioch (southeast turkey) he wrote extensively on Christian theology and famously proclaimed Christ to emperor Trajan before being martyred.
 
Mostly Authentic thought with some fabrications
 
Polycarp
 
110-140AD
 
Polycarp was a disciple of John the apostle, some sources show he was a fellow pupil of Papias. We have remaining a full letter to the church in Philippi where he fervently insists that the church follow the example of the Lord. 
 
 
An Authentic source

 


Potential further reading

The case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Gary Habermas and Mike Licona
 
Evidence that demands a verdict, Lee Strobels
 
Jesus and the eyewitnesses, Richard Baulkham
 

Peter Graham, 13/07/2015